Robinson's men will train with league side

Click to follow
The Independent Online

England head coach Andy Robinson was full of buzzwords as he made his first public utterances since being appointed to succeed Sir Clive Woodward last week.

England head coach Andy Robinson was full of buzzwords as he made his first public utterances since being appointed to succeed Sir Clive Woodward last week.

"Enthusiasm", "freshness", "energy", "challenging" and "developing relationships", were sprinkled as liberally as salt and pepper over his maiden speech, but the splash of vinegar which really spiced it all up came in the words "rugby league".

There is already a considerable influence from the 13-man code on the England rugby union squad with Jason Robinson a regular starter and fellow convert Henry Paul also on the scene, as well as defence and offence coaches Phil Larder and Joe Lydon.

But Robinson wants to venture a lot further into the northern version and vision of the sport. "I think rugby league is a great game. Completely different to union, but there are a number of things that we could learn.

"So we want to go and train with a rugby league side, and I'd like it to become a regular thing. It will help develop our players. It is a fresh thing for them and I think they will find it really challenging.

"I am actually in discussions about it now. I don't know whether we will be training with a club or with the Great Britain squad - as I say we are still at the planning stage - but I want there to be a cross-pollination of ideas between the two codes."

Robinson, who is expected to be named today as a key member of the British and Irish Lions coaching team, is also keen to forge a strong working relationship with the Premiership clubs.

"At times in the previous set-up relationships were strained," Robinson admitted. But the former Bath and England flanker is confident of making the peace. "We are getting a really good dialogue going with the directors of rugby in the Premiership - not just me but all the coaches." Already he has been putting in a lot of work, but then, by his own admission Robinson borders on the obsessive. "I am totally driven, in that I put England first," he said.

It is likely that the players will feel similarly driven over the next three and a bit years because Robinson has also set himself his own apparent mission impossible. "The main aim for us is to do something that no other side has ever done - win back-to-back World Cups - having gone into the 2007 Rugby World Cup as favourites."

That is his long-term aim; in the short term he is still confronted with a fairly stiff task. "We have the three autumn internationals against Canada, South Africa and Australia and I think they are going to be great games. We will face a South African side that has won the Tri-Nations, Australia, who put 50 points on us in the summer, and Canada, an emerging nation. Then we have the Six Nations' Championship and we came third in that last season, so we have some points to prove there too."

In trying to achieve both his long-term and short-term goals Robinson is therefore determined to keep the attention of his players. He does not want their minds wandering off through boredom.

That is why there was the gentlest of suggestions that everyone has had a bellyful of their luxury training headquarters at Pennyhill Park in Surrey. Robinson has clearly decided that a change is as good as a hard training session and recently took the squad up to Loughborough University.

"For the last four years we have been at Pennyhill Park. Loughborough was a great training environment for us - it was a bit different and I think it is great just creating this fresh environment.

"But we will not be going around the whole country. Pennyhill Park is an important base for us, but in the sort of weather we get in January to have a really good indoor facility, as they do at Loughborough, and to be able to work the players in a different environment would be tremendous."

* Australia's reserve scrum-half Chris Whitaker will miss next month's four-test tour of Europe because of a torn groin muscle. Whitaker, a long-time understudy to Wallaby captain George Gregan, has 20 Test caps.

Comments